Tuesday, July 10, 2018

You Can Make a Dinosaur, but You Can't Help Me, by K.M. Szpara

★★★☆☆ Average

(SF Adventure) In hopes of getting money to complete his transition, Emrick and his boyfriend visit his wealthy estranged father, who operates a wormhole that links to other dimensions. (7,046 words; Time: 23m)

"," by (edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas), appeared in issue 23, published on .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: An important thing to keep in mind with this story is that Emerick was a man all along; otherwise he wouldn't have been happy in the perfect male body he ended up with. Nevertheless, his dysphoria is so strong that despite a totally supportive boyfriend, he’s miserable. This is, ultimately, about his fight with his own self-doubt and his ultimate victory over it.

A strong theme of the story is how words conspire to undermine his self-confidence and how he tries (and fails) to use words to support himself. His father's deliberate misgendering of him is the most obvious example, but Noelle (a person from another world who couldn’t possibly be expected to know the nuances) upsets him too when she says “sex change,” and she's just talking about dinosaurs. He has his own set of words to support his own view of reality (he knows he's a man), but when he tells Leo he wants a penis “I can fuck you with, for real,” we can see how much everyone else's words have undermined his belief in himself. Em needs more than just words.

Contrast Leo, also a trans man but absolutely content to present as a gay man so effeminate that he can pass for a woman and who deliberately dresses to enhance the effect. Yet he’s so comfortable with himself that he can dress down when the occasion requires it without treating it as much more than an inconvenience—like any occasion that calls for special clothes. Leo cares a lot about words too (even to the extent of worrying that it’s wrong to say “brontosaurus”), but his main concern with words is keeping Emerick from being hurt by them.

What Noelle offers is much better than gender confirmation surgery. Her “treatment” changes Emerick genetically and somatically, giving him precisely what he wanted. And it works. His father continues to misgender him, but now he laughs at it. His confidence in himself is total; words can no longer hurt him.

Con: Emerick’s victory comes too easily; he doesn’t earn it, and it has zero negative side-effects.

Except for Noelle’s magic hands, the story presents itself as science fiction, not fantasy. The use of magic to resolve Emerick’s problem weakens the story a lot. But if you remove the magic element, the story ceases to be SFF at all; up to that point, this could be a mainstream story of a young trans man and his boyfriend trying to convince his rich dad to help him out.

Other Reviews: Search Web, Browse Review Sites (Issue 23)
K.M. Szpara Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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